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Established 2009

Avoid Token Marketing – Doing Too Little, Too Late Will Cost You Big

The other day, one of MindEcology’s co-founders had a “by the way”-type conversation with a family friend about the state of marketing at his small business – a restaurant he and his partners had opened eight months prior.

We soon realized it would become a conversation that we’ve had all too many times before, and yet it still makes us cringe each time we hear it. The details always vary, but the story remains the same at its core. Here is how that story goes.

Half-Measures at Launch

In the few months leading to their grand opening event, we knew that they had run a single billboard ad off of a major metro highway. But they did no other supporting marketing. Just that one marketing channel. The friend admitted that they had basically expected that word of their great food and service would spread like wildfire across the region via viral marketing – and that it would carry them right to profitability.

Next we asked how the business had been doing lately. He explained, “We are busy enough to cover our weekly operating expenses but not enough to pay back our long-term loan for capital investment in the building improvements, furniture, and heavy kitchen equipment. Things are steady, but not what we had hoped.” We had the feeling things might be worse than they were letting on.

We then pushed it a bit deeper (these conversations are tricky to navigate, especially with friends who aren’t asking for marketing advice). “What marketing or advertising are you doing right now?” we asked.

The reply came a bit timidly, “Well, since last month we have been running a full-page ad in a local neighborhood’s circular. It’s costing us $2,000/month. I don’t think it’s working, though. After all, I myself live in that neighborhood and I just throw it away after skimming through it once.”

Weak Follow-Up Advertising, Even After Things Start to Look Bleak

The ad wasn’t drawing in significant business. But, like the billboard ads, the single (and expensive) circular ad apparently satisfied their concerns about not doing anything – by doing something – anything – to market the business. But in their heart of hearts, our friend and his partners are still kind of hoping that the business will take off suddenly unaided, bringing them to new revenue heights.

Our friend ended the conversation with, “Maybe it’s time we talk to your company about what to try.” While we concur, we sincerely hope it’s not too little, too late.

This story is cringe-worthy to the ears of seasoned marketing consultants because it is so very avoidable. And it applies not only to small businesses but to new brand or product launches at small and mid-size companies, as well.

Bringing it All Together

In summary, here are the all-too-common mistakes that companies like our friend’s make every day:

1. Placing too-high expectations on word-of-mouth marketing, hoping it will carry them forward once the buzz of the grand opening has worn off.

2. Investing too little (or sometimes too much) money in an advertising choice (channel) that was chosen due to prior familiarity, because they were approached by a particular media rep, or because somebody they knew did the same thing. This, rather than taking a strategic, integrated approach?we call this token marketing.

3. Waiting too long to get serious about taking an integrated approach to marketing even after the business has been in operation for some months. What is integrated marketing? It means talking to marketing experts about how to work within a given marketing budget, what kind of ROI to expect from various options, and which marketing channels to invest in.

Next time we are at our friend’s restaurant, we will make a silent toast to their business and hope that they get serious about integrated advertising while they still have the operating cash to invest in the business.

Contact the full-service marketing experts at MindEcology to get your own integrated marketing plan built today.